Today’s Revolutionary:
Pablo Fanque


“Pablo Fanque” -Does that name ring a faint bell? Oh, of course! From Sgt. Pepper! John Lennon’s song: 

For the benefit of Mr. Kite/There will be a show tonight/ on Trampoline. The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo Fanque’s fair/What a scene!

I’ve heard this song a hundred times, and sung it myself a thousand times, with no idea who on earth Pablo Fanque was. Fanque was born William Darby on 28 February, 1796. The son of a slave, Darby apprenticed to a circus, and had enough talent that he started performing as both a tightrope walker, and then gained fame as an outstanding equestrian and horse trainer. At one point, he was invited to perform before the Queen. He started his own circus, and for 30 years, it was the most successful circus in England, and the only one belonging to a person of color. 

When he became famous, he adopted the stage name of Pablo Fanque.  He died at the age of 75. A hundred and some years later, John Lennon happened to buy an old circus poster, advertising 

Grandest Night of the Season!…
Lennon moved the words around, put music to them, and the rest is history.


(If this means nothing to you, well … it’s a long story. You see, there was an English band called ‘The Beatles’…)


Catch up on over 250 previous “Today’s Revolutionaries” here.


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Savings Groups are catching on in Europe and North America.

Follow this movement, and maybe get involved yourself.

Start by reading the Northern Lights page of Savings Revolution.

Then, if you like, contact us below, and we can talk about how you can form your own groups. We’ll put you in touch with someone who can help you do that!

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    Favorite Sites

    Here are some other sites that Kim and Paul read, that we think you might enjoy.


    Winkomun: This is a site of the ACAF network, mostly in Europe. They are doing great work and are Northern Lights leaders. Nice video where various members answer the question, “What is a Group”? Also available in español, català, and français. Where else can you get news about Savings Groups in Catalan?

    The SEEP Savings Led Working Group site. Congratulations to SEEP for putting together this comprehensive, easily accessible go-to site on savings groups. Check out their library, their report on outreach by country, and lots of other goodies.

    Village Finance Blog. Brett Hudson Matthew’s thoughtful posts are grounded in an understanding of oral cultures, history, and social dynamics. Recommended for anyone trying to understand what’s really happening in savings groups. 

    Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at UC Irvine. “Its mission is to support research on money and technology among the world’s poorest people. We seek to create a community of practice and inquiry into the everyday uses and meanings of money, as well as … technological infrastructures”. ‘Nuff said.

    David Roodman’s Microfinance Open Book Blog. David Roodman combines intelligence, honesty, and a sense of humor. He attempts to bring intellectual rigor to the analysis of the impact of financial services, and isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process.

    Clean Air, Bright Light. This site by Savings Revolution co-founder Paul Rippey contains useful information about lessons learned in using savings groups to promote clean lighting. Still in development but check it out anyway!

    Center for Financial Inclusion. CFI supports traditional microfinance to become more client friendly, more inclusive, and generally smarter. They have a long-term vision for the sector, and the blog attracts many good writers and thoughtful comments.

    Nanci Lee’s blog. Nanci Lee’s eclectic site includes Savings Groups, and also poetry, travel, links to interesting successes around the world, nature, art, women’s rights, and transformation. A very personal blog, and worth reading.







    Financial Promise for the Poor 

    Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Bulld Microsavings is your go-to book on savings groups. Its contributors are authors you often read in this blog. It covers current innovations in microsavings happening around the world.

    Also, don’t miss…

    Savings Groups at the Frontier, the book inspired by the 2011 Savings Group Summit!

    Buy in UK or US.

    Search Savings Revolution


    Over the last twenty years, many people have become interested in helping poor people around the world get good financial services. Mohammed Yunus and the institution he founded, the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, won a Noble Prize in 2006 for helping start a movement that has brought financial services to millions around the world. 

    Banks and microfinance institutions are one way to bring financial series to the poor. Savings Groups, managed by the members and based on savings rather than debt, are another solution. In fact, we think they’re such a good solution that they really are revolutionary.

    Savings Groups are self-selected groups of 15 to 30 women and men who get together to save and borrow. Rather than go into debt to an external institution, they manage their own savings through transparent procedures and all the money they earn through interest on loans stays in their village, and in their group.

    This seven-minute video is a great short introduction to savings groups:

    A number of international non-profit organizations work with local partners to train people in villages and cities in how to manage their own savings groups. There are now over five million savings group members in Africa alone, and the movement is also growing in Asia and Latin America. (There are even a few groups in Europe and North America).

    Savings Revolution is designed to help you learn more about Savings Groups, and to get involved with the most exciting new approach to bringing safe financial services to people around the world.


    « The Economist on Savings Groups »

    The Economist magazine just ran a short article on Savings Groups. It’s quite gratifying how many things the article gets right. It has a good concise description of how savings groups operate and contrasts them favorably with credit-based microfinance.

    The article addresses two themes that are sometimes lost in short descriptions of savings groups, but that I suspect will be the most discussed aspects of savings groups in coming years.

    First, it mentions combining savings groups with other activities (“Once members have mastered the system, the groups they have formed can take on additional tasks such as providing training in agriculture, health, leadership and business”.)

    Then it ends with a mention of what in some areas is by far the main channel through which SGs are created, community-driven growth (“Members may go on to spread what they have learned to other villages.”)

    Thanks to Lauren Hendricks for bringing this article to our attention.  And thanks to whoever worked with the Economist to get such a good short article published in such an influential magazine.

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